You may have heard a lot about what to expect when labor begins, but every woman and her labor is different. There is no single sign that means you are starting labor. You might have some, or all these signs, or none of them at all. If you start to have these signs, read “Am I in labor?” for more information about what to do next.
You have made it to the point where you are ready to have your baby and are wondering how to tell if you are in labor. For some women, labor begins gradually with signals that include changes in your cervix and mild contractions, while other women go into full-fledged labor with little warning. Your doctor or midwife will help you with this, but here are some of the signals to help know if you are in labor.
It can be hard to tell if you are in labor or not. Your due date is approaching, some of your friends have had their babies already, or you are just wondering what all the fuss is about. Knowing when you go into labor can be confusing because it is different for everyone, but there are some clues that it is time.
Signs of labor can be subtle, and you might not even be sure if you are in it. Learn how to tell if you are in labor, what early labor feels like when it starts, and how contractions prepare your body for delivery.
Are You Contractions Regular?
When you are in labor, your uterus tightens and relaxes at regular intervals. At first, it is just like having menstrual cramps. But as time goes on, it gets more painful and the contractions come closer together. It is normal to feel a little scared or nervous about giving birth but remember your body has been preparing for this day ever since you got pregnant.
When you change positions, are your contractions regular or do they go away? These are not labor pains. It is like your body is practicing for the real thing. Braxton Hicks contractions are not labor pains. They happen in your abdomen, which feels like a tightening and squeezing. Rather than how labor pain feels, this kind of pain goes away when you change positions.
True labor contractions continue at regular intervals and get stronger, no matter whether you change positions or have a drink. The last 30 to 70 seconds and they become more frequent.
False Labor (Braxton Hicks Contractions)
A woman’s experience of labor is different from one woman to the next, but Braxton Hicks’s contractions may help you emotionally and psychologically prepare. Braxton Hicks’s contractions are sometimes a signal that true labor is about to begin. It is important to contact your doctor if these contractions keep getting worse or become stronger and more regular. Meanwhile, walking, bathing in warm water, or changing positions can help them go away.
Back Hurt sign of Labor?
Back pain during pregnancy can be a sign of labor, especially if it is accompanied by contractions that are getting longer, stronger, and closer together. Back pain during labor is not necessarily at the top of your mind (you are worried about other parts). But if you have a “to-do” list for getting through labor, add massage, heat packs, or warm baths to it.
Lower back pain during pregnancy is common, as are frequent bathroom trips, gas, indigestion, and heartburn. It is a good idea to talk with your doctor about any new or unusual symptoms you must make sure everything is going well.
Did You feel Water Break?
If you are not sure what to expect, do not worry. Lots of moms are not sure that their water broke until another sign of labor happens. It is normal to leak fluid and to have some spots in the second and third trimesters. This is different from your water breaking, which may cause a gush of water out of your vagina. If you notice either of these symptoms, call your doctor right away.
We have all heard about “water breaking” as that big sign that labor has started. But did you know it doesn’t always happen that way? Sometimes your doctor will break your water for you, using a little plastic hook. There is no need to stress, however — broken water will not hurt the baby. What matters most is getting to the hospital or birthing center for the next step.
Amniotic fluid keeps your baby warm and cushioned in the womb. Late in pregnancy, the bag of fluid can break. This is called rupture of membranes or water breaking. Call your provider right away if you think your bag of water has broken. You may need to go to the hospital or birth center to have your baby.
A dropped plug is simply a plug of mucus, also known as a snot that blocks the entrance to your cervix. The cervix is the lower part of your uterus, and it is where the baby grows during pregnancy. When you are pregnant, a plug of mucus blocks your cervix. As your cervix gets softer and bigger to prepare for labor, this plug loosens and drops out. It usually looks like a small amount of pinkish or brown-colored jelly-like discharge.
‘Dilation’ and ‘Effacement’?
Your doctor is using terms like “dilated” and “effaced.” It might sound like a foreign language, but you need to know how your cervix is doing. As your cervix thins out and gets bigger (opens), it is taking you one giant step closer to welcoming your baby. The dilation (opening) of your cervix is measured in centimeters (cm) from 0 cm (no dilation) to 10 cm (fully dilated). Effacement is measured as a percentage. An “80 percent effaced” cervix means that the cervix is 80 percent thinner than its pre-pregnant state.
Do you know the Other Signs That Labor is near?
When the cervix dilates, it stretches, and this can cause discomfort. This is normal. The closer labor gets, the more the cervix will stretch and dilate, which means even more watery discharge. Women who are in labor may experience copious amniotic fluid discharge.
The baby’s head descends into the pelvis in preparation for delivery. The belly may look lower and you may find it easier to breathe as your baby no longer crowds your lungs. You may also feel an increased need to urinate because your baby is pressing on your bladder.
Your discharge may be tinged with blood due to the cervix opening. This is the mucus plug that sealed the womb from any infection. It is very normal and can occur days before labor.
You are most likely to have loose bowel movements (D) or diarrhea during the early hours of labor, and this can happen quite frequently. The same hormones that cause your uterus to contract rhythmically and powerfully also squeeze your large bowel so that it must empty. It is one of the first signs of labor.
You might be getting ready for labor if you start to nest. There is no science behind this, but many moms feel the urge to clean out their whole house or finish their work in the baby’s nursery right before labor begins.
Movement of Your baby less
As you get closer to your due date, your baby’s movements in the womb become more limited and less frequent because there is not much room for him to move around. During those last days before labor, rest often.
Finally, labor contractions feel like real work. They are usually more painful than menstrual cramps, and you may need to breathe deeply or moan low to get through them. Real labor contractions are not just in your lower abdomen; they usually radiate across your belly and back. They can also be felt in your thighs and sometimes even up into your chest. Real labor contractions are more intense, longer, and closer together than Braxton Hicks contractions. With labor contractions, you will not be able to talk or walk through the pain.
When to Call the Doctor or Midwife
Has your water broken? Are you having regular, painful contractions every 5 to 10 minutes for 60 minutes? Has there been any significant vaginal bleeding or a decrease in the amount of movement you feel from your baby? If so, these can be signs of labor, and it is time to call your doctor or midwife. It does not hurt to call if you are unsure about whether or not you are in labor, too.
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